My way? His way?

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. – 2 Samuel 22:31

If you’ve ever wondered about the way God does things, you’re not alone!

Some disciples were walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, depressed and discouraged (Luke 24). Jesus was the one they had counted on to rescue them from oppression. Now he was dead. There were rumors of resurrection, but who knows? Then, by the end of the chapter, they realize Jesus is alive (good news) and he’s not going to deliver Israel from the Romans (bad news). In fact, he’s leaving them (really bad news).

Even so, we find them a few weeks later praising God in the temple (v. 53). They went from sadness to joy, from confusion to worship. Jesus didn’t do things their way, but maybe they were beginning to see his way was better.

What are you praying desperately for? What do you wish God would fix for you? We pray with such limited vision! We see things only from our perspective and time.

His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. They are bigger, better, bolder. They take us to a place we could never envision for ourselves. We simply don’t know what’s best for us or for someone else. We cannot know while we are in this world, living this life.

So, what do we do when, like the disciples with Jesus, we find that God’s not going to answer our prayers as we want him to? We accept and believe his way is better. We entrust him with our bodies. We rely on him for resources. We let him feed our souls and give us hope.

“Let God have your life. He can do more with it than you can.” – D. L. Moody

Wonder and Wait

The symphony he is composing includes minor chords, dissonance, and tiresome fugal passages. But those of us who follow his conducting through early movements will, with renewed strength, someday burst into song.” – Philip Yancey

Life is about the day-to-day, isn’t it? We get caught up in what is next on the schedule, what we need to plan for, shop for, or fix. Life can be mundane.

Then a crisis hits and we long for the “boring” days, the days when all we had to do was the next thing on our calendar. Now we are taken to a new place and it can be a place of discouragement, frustration, and even dread. We can’t see how this will end. We are vulnerable and afraid.

Let’s rewind that scenario. What if we see the crisis we face not as an obstacle to get around, but an invitation from the God of creation to let him lead us through it? What if there are heavenly blessings and spiritual understandings we cannot get any other way than by going through something we didn’t sign up for? Something we detest? Something we fear?

If we are in crisis, let’s face it with awe at what God is about to do. With wonder at what will unfold as we walk day-by-day with him in the middle of it. With anticipation of an outcome we cannot, in our humanness, even imagine. Let’s lean hard into the one who has promised never to leave us, always to love and care for us – no matter what we are facing today. Then we can watch in wonder as he does his amazing work!

“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” – Habakkuk 1:5

The Value of Time

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

Have you ever heard of the time value of money? The concept is if you have a little money, invest it where it can earn interest, and let principal and interest grow together, eventually you will have a great deal more money than you started with. The key ingredient is time.

There’s a time value to spirituality, too. We begin with commitment to follow Christ. Then we learn a little here and there, adding to the knowledge we already have. We sense the foundation of our spiritual life is getting stronger. Then, we add experiences, sound teaching, spiritual practices, and relationships until, over time, we realize we’re changing (2 Peter 1:5-9). There are many behaviors and activities that contribute to our spiritual maturation, but time is a key ingredient to fostering true transformation.

Here are a few examples of how that might help:

  • Temptation that is persistent tests us, grows us, and invites God to intervene. We shortchange ourselves when we give in to temptation without a fight. If we resist and trust God, we get stronger (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • Faith that has to wait for fulfillment grows deeper with time. If all our prayers were answered immediately, our faith would be fragile. As we learn to trust God’s timing, our faith grows (Romans 4:20).
  • Spiritual fruit comes only after seeds are buried and the plants mature. Growth to the point of fruitfulness in God’s Kingdom takes time (Mark 4:26-29).

We want to encourage our own spiritual growth, but we can’t hurry it. Most of the highly valued things in life take time. Don’t give up!

“Be not afraid of growing slowly. Be afraid only of standing still.” – Author Unknown

Expectations!

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, . . . She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” – Proverbs 3:13 and 15

We bought a pail of sand for our grandson from a rock shop in Colorado because we had been told there were stones to be found in the sand if the recipient was willing to dig for them. He was!

One by one a wide variety of rocks were found – everything from tiger eye (his favorite) to obsidian to geodes. Each was greeted with appropriate appreciation and, sometimes, awe. As his treasures were washed and laid out on a towel to dry, I thought of how different the result would be if he had not been willing to take off the cover and begin to dig.

Why did he bother to open it? Because he expected to find something. He believed if he dug deep enough, there would be treasure.

I couldn’t help applying that thought to the Bible that sits next to my chair. Why do I choose to turn the cover and read it every day? Because I expect to find something. Something I will value, something that will please me, something that will correct me, something that will add to my knowledge or will give me direction. And I am never disappointed!

Do you see what I mean? The treasure is there, but we have to be willing to dig for it. So, let’s keep reading God’s Word, believing he has a message for us there every time we open it. Soon we will have a collection of understanding, promises, and encouragement that will make us wise and our lives beautiful!

“Our pursuit of God is successful just because he is forever seeking to manifest himself to us.” A. W. Tozer

Am I the answer?

“He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” – Job 6:14

Most of the time, we don’t know what’s on another person’s prayer list, do we? Sometime they share their burdens with us. More often, they are silent about what keeps them awake at night. We might not even know they need help.

But God does. He knows, as well, our relationship to this person, and it just may be that he wants to use us to answer a prayer request we aren’t even aware of. So what do we do?

First, as friends, we should learn to listen with sensitivity and to observe behavior. Often a person in need will give clues to what he cannot seem to verbalize, but we have to be aware and watchful. The Spirit will often reveal what we would not see on our own.

Then we can come in a little closer and try to help – sharing from our resources, offering our skills, giving biblical counsel, and standing alongside until our friend’s burden gets lighter. If we are willing, we can make a difference – one act of kindness at a time.

We usually aren’t called to solve other people’s problems, but we are called to respond in whatever way the Spirit shows us until they, with God’s help, can solve their own.

We may be the answer to someone else’s prayer. That, dear friends, is one of the greatest joys of the Christian life. Serving God. Loving others. Sensing God’s affirmation. And being reminded of Jesus’ own words, “. . .It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b).

None of us can help everyone. But all of us can help someone. And when we help them, we serve Jesus. Who would want to miss a chance to do that? – Max Lucado

Call me.

“The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. My eyes are ever on the Lord . . .” – Psalm 25:14-14.

You see a friend across a crowded coffee shop just as you are on your way back to work. You give a quick signal with your hand to your ear, meaning, “Call me.” And you mean it.

Do you know God has been saying “call me” to his people for many centuries? Here are a few of his “call me” signals to us:

  • “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
  • “The same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:12b)
  • When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15).

God makes it clear that he waits for us to call out to him with earnestness, consistency, and commitment. If we call, he will answer.

Did you notice something else about these verses? Not only does God ask us to call him, but he promises good things when we do: revelation, understanding, riches, salvation, rescue, honor, and his very presence. Don’t you think it’s worth the call?

One more thought. Calling on God is important for us, but I’ve found that the stronger my communication is with him, the better I can help others on life’s path with me. Without a vital, two-way relationship with God, I’m not much good to anyone else. You may sense that, too. Give him a call – for your sake and theirs!

“We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God.” – A. W. Tozer

From and To

As for God, his way is perfect . . .” – 2 Samuel 22:31a

Life has its routines: its familiar surroundings, foods, sounds, and patterns. It’s comfortable, even if it’s not perfect.

Sometimes God sends surprises that uproot us from the familiar and force us to face new routines, new challenges. We usually balk at that. We want things to be like they were before the pandemic, before the rejection, before the diagnosis, before the job loss. We just want to go back to what we knew before everything changed.

The people of Israel felt that way after just a short time in the desert. They complained to Moses that they wanted to go back to Egypt (to slavery!) because the food was better. Can you believe it? Moses knew he had some unhappy campers, but he also knew God had a plan. Here’s what he tells the people: “But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised” (Deuteronomy 6:23).

He’s reminding them they’re not home yet. There is more to come. God has taken them out of Egypt not to leave them wandering in the desert, but to take them to a far better place. They just needed to be patient in the journey.

Has God upset your routine? Removed you from the familiar? Created new challenges? Trust that he takes us out of somewhere to take us into someplace better – a place where we can flourish.

In between, we wonder and we worry just as the people of Israel did in the desert.

Let’s remember where he has taken us from, look forward to where he’s taking us to, and trust him in the in-between.

“Leave the broken, irreversible past in God’s hands, and step out into the invincible future with him.” – Oswald Chambers

Make it lovable.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” – Colossians 4:6

OK, I have a really big Bible. It not only has a good translation of Scripture, but it has pages of notes, maps, charts, and commentaries that enrich my understanding of the text. But, that’s not the Bible I carry with me everyday. Instead, I have a discreet purse-sized Bible tucked away until needed.

The point: If we are to be ambassadors for God’s kingdom on this earth, we are to practice good diplomacy. We must not be arrogantly spiritual (oxymoron, right?). We should not lead with our 20-pound Bible, our flowery prayers, or our condemnation of society.

We take our cues from Jesus here. He could have begun every conversation with something like, “I am God, you know.” But he didn’t. He led with his actions. He didn’t send the crowds away hungry. He fed them. He didn’t condemn Mary Magdalene. He cast the demons out of her. He didn’t turn away in fear from the ten lepers. He healed all of them, even the ungrateful. And he didn’t shoo away the kids. In fact, he used them as examples of how we all should approach him – with simple trust.

Maybe we, too, need to lead with hospitality, generosity, and gentleness. Those kinds of actions will open doors that unadorned holiness would see slammed shut.

It is important to be virtuous and pure, but maybe our piety should be between us and God. If it is true holiness, those in the outside world will see it in the way we behave – especially toward them. And that could lead to some important conversations!

“Not only should you be devout yourself and love piety, but you should make it lovable to others.” – Francis de Sales

Three Miles an Hour


“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” – Genesis 3:8

I love to walk, whether it’s around the neighborhood or on a mountain trail (then I get to call it a hike!). And, when I walk, I find things I would never see any other way – near perfect dandelion puffs, hidden streams, or grasses blowing in the wind. And yesterday, a friendly encounter with my neighbor’s dog!

What’s your speed? 70 mph? More on some days? We get used to hurry, and often it can’t be avoided. And we all know there’s nothing like a smart phone to instill constant pressure. Our work and world today seem to demand that we rush.

What is God’s speed? South Asian author Kosuke-Koyama wrote a book a few years ago titled The Three-Mile An Hour God. He based his estimate on the average distance a person walks in an hour, pointing out that when Jesus was here, he most likely moved at about three miles an hour as he walked around Galilee. And, he stopped a lot along the way!

That book led N. T. Wright to comment, “We have to slow down to catch up with God!” Could that be true of us? Do we sometimes race right by God as he moves along at the slower pace of Godspeed?

Do you have a favorite way to slow down? To calm your mind and soul? To pause to go a little deeper? For me, walking is a great antidote to hurry. For you it may be something else. Whatever we have to do to slow down to catch up with God, let’s do it!

“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” – Richard Foster

NOTE: If you want more on this topic, check out this website: https://www.livegodspeed.org/

Smile!

“I will celebrate before the Lord,” 2 Samuel 6:21b

Did you know that walking with God is not always about being serious? There are supposed to be times of celebration, belly laughs, and seeing the lighter side.

Remember when David brought the Ark of God to Jerusalem after its long absence? He was so happy he danced in front of the Ark, and it wasn’t a carefully choreographed dance, either. It is described as dancing and leaping – a spontaneous burst of joy.

Then there’s the time when Ezra found the Book of the Law, dusty from disuse for many years. He read it to the people and they were overcome with grief to think of how many ways they had failed God. After awhile, Nehemiah stepped in, dismissed the sad meeting, and called for a party, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine . . . for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

So, how happy are your morning devotional times? Do you smile when you talk to God? Does joy sneak into your heart as you read Scripture and begin to understand the pleasure God takes in his creation and in his people?

How happy are the worship times at your church? Is it a place where singing and praise-filled people worship a joy-filled God?

How happy are you when you look at God’s artwork in the sky, the freshness of new snow, or the wiggles of puppies? The things God makes should lead us to agree with Dallas Willard who said, “God is the happiest, most joyful being in the universe.”

Shouldn’t knowing him stir up happiness in us? Let’s live joy today!

“Praise is the mode of love which always has some element of joy in it.” – C. S. Lewis